Q&A With the Stars of Piano Battle: Paul Cibis and Andreas Kern

Let the games begin! The stars of Piano Battle face off on The Paramount’s stage on February 6 – get to know these fierce performers with a behind-the-curtain interview! CLICK HERE to learn more about Paramount Presents: Piano Battle and purchase your tickets today.

Andreas Kern

Why do you perform your concert as a “battle”?

PAUL: Piano Battle started more or less by accident. We were both in contact with the Hong Kong City Festival and there was only one concert slot left. The festival suggested that we share….
ANDREAS: And it did not take us long to discover that we definitely did not want to perform together! The fight was on and we decided to battle it out right on stage.
PAUL: To our surprise, the show was so successful that we were invited back and since then have been performing Piano Battle a lot in Asia and Europe.

Do you feel limited as an artist by this “battle” format because you have to take turns performing, for instance?

PAUL: Not at all because we have to give our very best at each moment of the show, not only in performing but also in connecting with the audience. “Trust Your Ears” is all I need to say. If you do that, the right one will win.
ANDREAS: The difficulty of convincing every member of the audience and being flexible and creative in my responses to Paul is actually my favourite part. If the audience pays close attention, they will notice that the more interesting and exciting pieces are played by me, and the winner will be obvious. “Stay curious”!

What makes this unique format special?

ANDREAS: Six rounds, no rules … and the audience will decide who wins. Preferably me, of course!
PAUL: We’ll see about that. Fact is that in each round we play one piece of the same musical style, trying to outperform each other. It is a serious competition and we always go out on stage to win.
ANDREAS: So the audience has to listen very intensely because they are absolutely in charge of the outcome.
PAUL: There is a master plan and depending on who wins a certain round, we will continue one way or another. But there is still a lot of flexibility, which makes it a lot of fun for us as well.
ANDREAS: We also have a proper improvisation round where we spontaneously play suggestions called up to us by the audience. And I always like to throw a surprise or two at Paul – just to keep him on his toes!

Paul Cibis

Which famous composer of the past would you like to have met?

PAUL: Chopin.
ANDREAS: Schumann.

How many days can you last without playing the piano?

PAUL: After three days I get a bit nervous, and after five-six days really restless, almost unhappy. But the strength of these feelings only become evident once I started playing again.
ANDREAS: I don’t play on Sundays.

What is your mobile phone ring tone?

ANDREAS: Don’t know, most of the time it’s on silent.
PAUL: A rehearsal recording of Andreas messing up the beginning of the first Chopin Etude.

What is your favorite classical piece of music?

PAUL: It’s impossible for me to define a few, let alone just one. But among my all-time favorites I would name Schumann’s Kinderszenen, Liszt’s B-minor Sonata, Schubert’s “Die Taubenpost”, and Brahms’ 1st and Mahler’s 2nd symphonies. There are also Mozart’s Dminor piano concerto, Beethoven’s 4th and 8th symphonies, Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde… Don’t get me started!
ANDREAS: Michael Jackson’s “She’s Out Of My Life”.

What is your favorite classical piece of pop music?

PAUL: Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror.
ANDREAS: Bach’s piano concerto in d-minor.

What was your most exciting experience on stage?

PAUL: Whenever there is one of those wonderful silent moments at the end of a piece. It’s mesmerizing with an audience of several hundred people being so actively quiet. Only a live concert can create this kind of concentration and atmosphere.
ANDREAS: A true story: once when I was performing Beethoven’s Sonata op. 111 in Bangalore, India, there was a power cut. I continued to play. Then I started talking to the audience about the piece although I couldn’t see anything. In the end a little boy came on stage with a candle and I resumed playing.